Pentagon: Man behind Marriott Hotel bombing killed in US drone strike

A US airstrike in southeast Afghanistan killed an al Qaeda leader responsible for the suicide attack on the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan, the Pentagon said.

Qari Yasin was killed in a drone strike in Paktika Province on March 19, the Pentagon said late Saturday.

The September 2008 suicide truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad killed more than 50 people, including two US service members. It sparked a fire that charred the hotel, which is near the diplomatic section of Islamabad.

Yasin is responsible for other carnage, including an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, which was visiting Lahore, Pakistan, in March 2009. In that incident, gunmen sprayed the team’s tour bus with bullets as it neared the stadium, killing eight people — six police officers and two civilians — and leaving several visiting players wounded.

The attack was a huge blow for the future of international cricket in Pakistan. In the years that followed, international teams backed out of playing in the country, citing security concerns. In 2015, visiting teams played in Pakistan for the first time since the incident.

“The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.

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Mother of missing child admits to drinking, making up kidnapping story, police say

A Palm Beach County woman is expected to be arrested after she told police she made up a kidnapping story, to cover up the fact that she’d been drinking and simply couldn’t remember where her daughter was, the sheriff’s office reports…

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No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 3 Oregon advance in NCAA tournament

Half of the Final Four field is set after Saturday’s games, with Gonzaga and Oregon both winning to advance from their regional finals.

 

No. 1 seed Gonzaga beat No. 11 Xavier 83-59 in the West Region final, while No. 3 Oregon defeated No. 1 Kansas 74-60 in the Midwest Region final.
 

The rest of the field will be set on Sunday, with No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kentucky playing in the South Region final and No. 4 Florida and No. 7 South Carolina in the East Region final.

 

The Final Four gets underway on Saturday, April 1, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, with the national semifinals. The winners of those games will then face off on Monday, April 3, for the national championship.

 

No matter who wins, there will be a new champion. Defending national champion Villanova was eliminated in the round of 32 by Wisconsin. The last back-to-back NCAA champions was Florida in 2006 and 2007.

 

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No. 1 Gonzaga advances in NCAA tournament

Gonzaga ended the 11th-seeded Xavier Musketeers’ Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with a 83-59 victory to advance to the Final Four.

 

The trip to the Final Four will be the first in school history for the No. 1 seed Bulldogs, who were playing in their second Elite Eight in three seasons and ran their record up to 36-1 by winning the West Region final.

 

 

Waiting for them Saturday, April 1, will be the winner of Sunday’s East Region final between No. 4 Florida and No. 7 South Carolina.

 

 

Gonzaga, which nearly went unbeaten this season before dropping its Feb. 25 regular-season finale to BYU, won both the West Coast Conference’s regular season and tournament titles on their way to earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

 

They routed South Dakota State 66-46 in their NCAA Tournament opener before winning closer games against Northwestern and West Virginia to reach the Elite Eight.

 

 

Xavier, which finishes with a 24-14 record on the season, had knocked out higher-seeded teams in each round of the tournament before coming up against Gonzaga. They beat sixth-seeded Maryland to open the tournament, then routed third-seeded Florida State to reach the Sweet 16 where they upset second-seeded Arizona.

 

 

The Musketeers had to overcome injuries and a late-season slump to qualify for the tournament, finishing with a 9-9 record in Big East Conference play. Their case was helped with two wins in the conference tournament, include a win over fellow Sweet 16 team Butler, before falling to Creighton in the Big East semifinals.

 

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President Trump falters in White House as outsider dealmaker

House Republicans’ failure to repeal Barack Obama’s health care law deals a serious blow to another big part of President Donald Trump’s agenda: tax reform.

Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., say they will soon turn their attention to the first major re-write of the tax code in more than 30 years. But they will have to do it without the momentum of victory on health care.

Just as important, the loss on health care will deprive Republicans of $1 trillion in tax cuts.

The GOP health plan would have repealed nearly $1 trillion in taxes enacted under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The bill coupled the tax cuts with spending cuts for Medicaid, so it wouldn’t add to the budget deficit.

Without the spending cuts, it will be much harder for Republicans to cut taxes without adding to the federal government’s red ink.

“Yes this does make tax reform more difficult,” said Ryan. “But it does not in any way make it impossible.”

“That just means the Obamacare taxes stay with Obamacare. We’re going to go fix the rest of the tax code,” he added.

House Republicans couldn’t round up enough votes Friday to repeal and replace a law they despise, raising questions about their ability to tackle other tough issues.

“Doing big things is hard,” Ryan conceded as he vowed to press on.

Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, acknowledged that Friday’s turn of events made him doubtful about the Republicans’ ability to tackle major legislation.

“This was my first big vote and our first big initiative in the line of things to come like tax reform,” said the freshman. “I think this would have given us tremendous momentum and I think this hurts that momentum.”

Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said, “You always build on your last accomplishment.”

Nevertheless, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday the administration plans to turn quickly to tax reform with the goal of getting an overhaul approved by Congress by August.

“Health care is a very complicated issue,” Mnuchin said. “In a way, tax reform is a lot simpler.”

Don’t tell that to House Republicans who have been struggling with the issue for years.

The general goal for Republicans is to lower income tax rates for individuals and corporations, and make up the lost revenue by reducing exemptions, deductions and credits.

Overhauling the tax code is hard because every tax break has a constituency. And the biggest tax breaks are among the most popular.

For example, nearly 34 million families claimed the mortgage interest deduction in 2016, reducing their tax bills by $65 billion.

Also, more than 43 million families deducted their state and local income, sales and personal property taxes from their federal taxable income last year. The deduction reduced their federal tax bills by nearly $70 billion.

Mnuchin said he had been overseeing work on the administration’s tax bill for the past two months. He said it would be introduced soon.

Mnuchin said the White House plan would cut individual and corporate tax rates, though he didn’t offer specifics.

House Republicans have released a blueprint that outlines their goals for a tax overhaul. It would lower the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent, and reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three.

The House plan retains the mortgage interest deduction but repeals the deduction for state and local taxes.

On the corporate side, the plan would repeal the 35 percent corporate income tax and replace it with a 20 percent tax on profits from selling imports and domestically produced goods and services consumed in the U.S.

Exports would be exempt from the new tax, called a border adjustment tax.

The new tax has drawn opposition from Republicans in the Senate. Mnuchin would not reveal whether the administration will include the border adjustment tax in the White House proposal. He was speaking at a public interview event with the news site Axios.

Republicans often complained that they couldn’t do a tax overhaul when Obama was president. Now, Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House, and they see a great opportunity.

They plan to use a complicated Senate rule that would prevent Democrats from blocking the bill. But there’s a catch: Under the rule, the package cannot add to long-term budget deficits.

That means every tax cut has to be offset by a similar tax increase or a spending cut. That’s why the loss on health care was so damaging to the effort to overhaul taxes.

Ryan made this case to fellow House Republicans in his failed effort to gain support for the health plan.

“That was part of the calculation of why we had to take care of health care first,” said Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y.

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